A local economist has welcomed Government’s call on farmers and other traders to consider exporting maize if they did not find market locally. Chibamba Kanyama observed that the opening of the market for maize export by Government was the best decision that could be made this time around.
Mr. Kanyama told ZANIS in Lusaka on Saturday that since Zambia still has maize stocks from last year’s harvest that could last up to the end of 2010, it was only fair to allow maize farmers and other traders to export their crop.
He was commenting on the decision by Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Peter Daka, to allow farmers to export their surplus maize. Mr. Kanyama pointed out that allowing farmers to export their maize would enable commercial farmers to recover what they spent to produce the crop.
“The only appropriate measure is for Government to lift the ban on export to allow for a fair price for the commercial farmers so that they can recoup their cost and make reasonable returns,” he said.
He explained that the K65, 000 which was set by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) as the maize floor price for the 2010 marketing season was not cost efficient to the commercial farmers. Mr. Kanyama said selling a 50 kilogramme bag of maize at K65, 000 would only be profitable to small scale farmers that received farming inputs from the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), which were heavily subsidised by Government.
“The only farmers that can sell at that price is the subsidized farmers and peasant farmers because they do not compute capital cost, they do not compute labour cost and also they do not compute energy cost,” he said. Mr. Kanyama added that to small scale farmers and peasant farmers, the K65, 000 per 50 kg bag of maize was a break even price.
He however feared that setting a floor price which is not cost efficient to commercial farmers could disturb maize production in the future. “So to small scale farmers, K65,000 is a breakeven price but for the commercial farmer, that is where we have a problem because they can easily switch to alternative crops and this has the potential of dampening the production in 2011,” he explained.
On Vice President George Kunda’s assurance to farmers that Government will buy all their excess maize, Mr. Kanyama said the FRA should now embark on educating farmers about this position because they might not be patient enough to wait for the agency.
He said the Food Reserve Agency should be given enough money to buy the maize on cash basis to deliver farmers from the temptation of selling their crops to ‘cash but exploitative’ buyers. “The only way to minimise exploitation of farmers is for FRA to go flat-out to buy the crop within 90 days,” he said.
Meanwhile, FRA Acting Spokesperson, Phillip Kabwe disclosed to ZANIS in Lusaka today that the agency has since started purchasing maize from farmers in Kabompo district in North Western Province. The crop marketing season was opened on 1st May 2010 following President Rupiah Banda’s directive to open the season early.
This year, Zambia has recorded the highest maize production in the history of the country at 2.79 million metric tonnes, against the national consumption of about 1.3 million metric tonnes per annum. This year’s bumper harvest represents 48 per cent increase in production compared to last year’s.